Boca's Piñon Grill: Some of the Dishes Veer into WTF Territory

I have to admit, I'm a huge fan of director David Lynch. His films, from the all-American discomfort of Blue Velvet to the schizophrenic murder mystery Mulholland Dr., are so strange and moody, they're like nothing else out there. Don't even get me started on Twin Peaks — his early-'90s television series had to be one of the most original shows ever created. Yet some detractors say that Lynch's entire oeuvre of kooky characters and metaphoric references is just art-house gibberish — surrealist themes that come off as weirdness for weirdness' sake.

I never understood Lynch's critics until I ordered the crab fritters at Piñon Grill in Boca Raton. The large white bowl in front of us was supposed to contain three large spheres of deep-fried, lump crab meat. But any fritters present were completely obscured by a billowy nest of what looked like fried hair. It was like I had just stepped onto the set of some bizarre art-house movie. Instead of crab fritters, I'd been served a deep-fried wig — probably to represent my latent fear of male pattern baldness.

"What is that?" asked my grandmother, whom I had brought to lunch at Piñon Grill for her 87th birthday. "Did we order that?"

Piñon's grilled salmon salad: Um, where are the greens?
Piñon's grilled salmon salad: Um, where are the greens?

Location Info

Map

Pinon Grill

6000 Glades Road, Ste. 1390
Boca Raton, FL 33431

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Boca Raton

Details

Piñon Grill, 6000 Glades Road, Ste. 1390, Boca Raton. Open for lunch and dinner 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 561-391-7770, or click here.

"It looks like Donald Trump's comb-over," my uncle replied. As he fingered at the toupee of fried dough, I imagined it scurrying to the edge of the table and telling me in a deep, New York accent, "You're fired!"

The sad part of the whole ordeal? The fritters were actually decent — meaty, juicy, and coated in a light beer batter. But the surreal presentation came off as both pretentious and completely unnecessary, especially since the doughy "hair" had no flavor at all aside from the fryer grease that clung to it. Like a plot twist without a purpose, it was — to put it in critical terms — weirdness for weirdness' sake.

I'm evoking this comparison to films and art not only to make a point but because Piñon Grill broaches the subject itself. The first thing you're likely to read on its very short, one-page menu is a prosaic account of its food. The section drags on laboriously about "New American" cookery and its melding of classic dishes with current culinary trends. But behind the Palinesque word salad is little substance — the place serves mostly steak and potatoes, salad and sandwiches. On its own, that would be completely acceptable, especially considering the restaurant's location in the populist Town Center Mall. It's just that, more often than not, the kitchen's artsy pretensions derail dishes that would otherwise be tasty.

It's a shame, really. I'd brought my grandmother to lunch with me that day hoping to treat her to a nice birthday meal. At first glance, things looked good. She, like me, was awed by the impressive interior design. The restaurant sits on a corner lot, with tall wooden doors. Step inside and the foyer opens up into a smart and refined-looking space, full of wood and deep earth tones. Silhouettes of indigenous dancers hang over striped rows, while statuesque busts of piñon trees (a Southwestern pine) frame the rows of banquettes in the dining room.

Following these visual cues, you might imagine a restaurant that combines the contemporary vibe of a modern steak house with distinctly Southwestern elements — a Houston's clone as it would look if born in Flagstaff. Yet the menu lacks that focus. Straightforward enough are the soups (crab bisque, Sante Fe chicken) and the sandwiches (prime burger, tuna burger, brisket). But there's an almost purposeful lack of continuity in dishes such as chicken paillard and Asian grilled salmon, or filet mignon with béarnaise sauce versus baby back ribs. And the Southwestern influence (remember the piñon trees?) is almost completely relegated to the appetizer menu in the form of catch-all dishes like spinach quesadillas and seared tuna tacos (tuna being about as native to the Southwest as cheesecake and borscht).

Adding insult to injury is the fact that Piñon Grill lacks either a lunch or bar menu, meaning you'll pay the same prices — which tiptoe toward the $30 mark — whether you're sitting at the bar for happy hour, eating dinner, or dining at lunch, as we did.

To make up for the pricey entrées, we decided to order a few appetizers as main courses, hoping they'd be big enough to do the job. My uncle Drew went that route and definitely enjoyed his spinach and mushroom quesadilla ($12), which paired a nicely browned tortilla with sautéed mushrooms, julienne greens, and salty Cojita cheese. The accompanying guacamole and salsa, however, were both in rough shape, tasting underseasoned and past their prime. My fiancée wasn't as pleased overall with her grilled salmon salad ($18). Although the fish was perfectly cooked and full of flavor, the "salad" underneath ventured off into that uncomfortable surrealist territory — namely, it was devoid of any sort of greens and instead featured an awful combination of mangoes, capers, pine nuts, olives, red-skinned potatoes, and green beans, all gooped together by a sickly tart Dijon vinaigrette. It was a pairing that looked just about as bad as it tasted — like a niçoise salad that someone purged after a long night of drinking.

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20 comments
Ernie
Ernie

Apparently John doesn't know what a salad is; I'm sure he'd get ticked off if his pasta salad or potato salad didn't include greens. The menu states pretty clearly what the "salad" is comprised of. Thank goodness we don't have to read his nonsense anymore.

Tiffit
Tiffit

Your writing is hilarious.  I'm intrigued enough to want to go.  Esp. for the veggie burger (love 'em even though I'm not vegetarian.  Thanks for the review.

Sabrina
Sabrina

Shame on you New Times and John Linn for using such inappropriate language and trash talk towards what is easily one of the best new restaurants to have ever arrived to Boca Raton. Your points could not have been farther from the truth. Pinon Grill is easily one of the most respected restaurants in Palm Beach County. I am so shocked and appalled at this ridiculous read trying to pass itself off as a legitimate food review. I cannot believe that you would actually put the line "where are the greens" for that gorgeous salmon salad photo??? are you seriously insane? those spring vegetables and greens are so fabulous their freshness practically jumps off the page. This by far in my opinion has been one of the best new restaurants to ever arrive to town, not only for their exceptional cuisine but for their genuine and gracious hospitality to their guests and patrons.

Amy V.
Amy V.

I was very surprised by this review. After several recommendations, I recently gave Pinon Grill a try and I‚Äôve been back several times since. I found the food to be excellent and the service was certainly above average. I have yet to have a bad experience.Thank you for recognizing at least one truth in your review- their white chocolate bread pudding is to die for, but I would definitely recommend trying their flourless chocolate waffles too‚Äď they‚Äôre amazing and gluten free!¬†

Ellie
Ellie

John Linn all I can say is WTF to your review of Pinon Grill?¬† I recently ordered the crab fritters and they were delicious, not to mention GORGEOUS in presentation. Needless to say, the fact that you are spending more time yacking about the garnishment rather than the quality of the fritters themselves (which you admittingly enjoyed) makes this critique as a whole questionable‚Ķ¬†‚Äúthe menu lacks that focus‚ÄĚ ‚Äď REALLY?! Why are you coming down so nastily on this superior quality establishment? Isn‚Äôt New American Cuisine defined as a fusion of international flavors conjoined with traditional American?¬† Seems focused to me.

Kccincc
Kccincc

Thanks for the laughs

Amber
Amber

I find this review to be far from the truth. I have heardnothing but good reviews from Pinon, not only from my friends but from areapublications including Sun Sentinel who gave them 4 out of 4 stars! How can oneperson view this establishment with such distaste, while EVERYONE else seems tothink it is absolutely, hands down, one of Boca's best restaurants. Their artsytake on a few dishes may be a bit over the top but to beat the competition inthis town you can't just be another run-of-the-mill restaurant. Pinon Grillprovides a "WOW" factor not a "WTF" factor. 

Rich
Rich

It is Boca Raton for Christ's sake....Waddaywant?

freakerdude
freakerdude

"Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!"

That phrase pretty much sums it up....hehe. I liked the review but can't compare since I have never been. I think it was well written though. Maybe even Dennis would agree.

Now on to Lynch, my favorite director. It doesn't get much better than Wild At Heart. Twin Peaks was great. Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire probably too bizarre for most ppl to appreciate.

Kim
Kim

Dinner at Pinon is wonderful. Wait staff is very knowledgable and attentive. Food arrives hot and visually pleasing as well as delicious. I've never been disappointed.

SLAM Table Tennis
SLAM Table Tennis

I find this review to be far from the truth. I have heard nothing but good reviews from Pinon, not only from my friends but from area publications including Sun Sentinel who gave them 4 out of 4 stars! How can one person view this establishment with such distaste, while EVERYONE else seems to think it is absolutely, hands down, one of Boca's best restaurants. Their artsy take on a few dishes may be a bit over the top but to beat the competition in this town you can't just be another run-of-the-mill restaurant. Pinon Grill provides a "WOW" factor not a "WTF" factor.

Jen
Jen

Thisreview made ME say WTF as the majority of it couldn't be further from thetruth. Pinon is my go-to spot in Boca not only for the quality dishes, but forthe outstanding service and stunning environment. I've had the pleasure of tastingalmost all of the appetizers - the grilled artichokes and quesadillas aredefinite favorites. Entrée-wise, the vegetable burger is done to perfection andthe lobster penne pasta with brie sauce is a decadent treat with a generousportion of fresh lobster. The real standout for me is the jalapeno mac andcheese side which is pure cheesy goodness! I love the white sauce and hint ofjalapeno that gives it that extra kick.

 

Pinonis a must-try and I’m positive that once you experience it yourself, thisreview will have you saying WTF, too.   

Stephanie
Stephanie

With Pinon Grill being one of my all-time favorite restaurants (and hands-down my favorite restaurant in Boca), it took a few minutes for this review to register. Weirdness for weirdness' sake? Surrealist? Definitely not terms I'd use to describe Pinon. Some of the dishes' presentations have flair, yes, but I would never accuse them of being overly artsy, or even trying to be. I think it's safe to say my meat-and-potatoes friends enjoy Pinon just as much as my fancy-schmancy friends, because it strikes the balance of being aesthetically pleasing and genuinely GOOD. Like, call your friends to recommend it the second you leave good.

Having had many dinner parties there, I've been able to taste most dishes on the menu and they never miss the mark. The ceviche is fantastic - it's seriously a heaping bowl of fresh shrimp and crab in a delicate coconut-lime broth. I've made it my meal before. The grilled salmon salad is always good (I don't think a "salad" always has to include a bunch of lettuce). It's nice to have a salad with actual substance sometimes. For main courses, my boyfriend's go to is the brisket sandwich, which he has specifically requested for his birthday in 2 weeks. I usually go for the Chilean sea bass or braised beef (I try to get myself to order other entrees but always find myself going back to my classic standbys). You can't go wrong with the steaks. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't go to Pinon just for dessert before. It's really a shame that the reviewer didn't get to try the flourless chocolate waffle, because it's eyes-roll-back-in-your-head good, decadent but not overly sweet. And he was right on the money with the bread pudding, easily the best dessert in town. No matter how full you are, you MUST make room for the bread pudding! Take my word for it. Rounding out the experience is the fact that the restaurant itself is gorgeous. A friend once described it as "like eating in an art museum." The bar is warm, the booths are big (and cozy) enough to practically fall asleep in, and the Native American dancer silhouettes somehow always end up a topic of conversation. Add in an attentive, professional staff and you've got the best restaurant in Boca. 

joe
joe

i think the writers expectations may not have been met but i have heard the food is fabulous

unknown
unknown

Sabrina, you ought to be ashamed of yourself instead!  This author has every right to express his opinion of Pinon Grill.  I have been to the restaurant myself, and may I say, I agree whole-heartedly with John.  Pinon Grill leaves much to be desired.  There are a few dishes that are worth the money, but the majority of the cuisine offered is so terrible that I wouldn't even bring it home for my dog.

Jamie
Jamie

The planted comments are so transparent; one wonders why you even bother?

D. J. Thompson
D. J. Thompson

This place sucks, great write up, couldnt have done it better

Rich
Rich

Yep......Boca's all fer show....I think he or she is a profesional spokesperson. Though I do NOT like the idea of seeing Trumps hair piece....Or do I?

Chaz Stevens, Genius
Chaz Stevens, Genius

Kim.

Are you a professional spokesperson or just do it on a part-time as needed basis?

Rich
Rich

Can I get there by bus from Broward? 

 
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